The Olmec people are believed to have occupied a large part of modern-day Southern Mexico. The Olmec civilization is what is known as an archaeological culture. This means there is a collection of artifacts thought by archaeologists to represent a particular society.
Olmec civilization arose along the Gulf Coast of southern Mexico about 1200 B.C., in an area that the Aztecs later called Olman, “The Rubber Country.” There, quick streams flowed into large rivers, with easily cultivated soil and bountiful forests providing sustenance.
All of the authentic Olmec heads can be found in Mexico. San Lorenzo Head (10) is located at San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán Community Museum while San Lorenzo Heads (2) and (6) are at Mexico City’s National Anthropology Museum. Xalapa’s Anthropology Museum houses the remaining San Lorenzo sculptures.
Experts have traditionally believed that when the Olmec were busy building their civilization at large sites such as La Venta, near the Gulf coast in modern Mexico, the people who would become the Maya were living in loosely associated nomadic groups in the jungles to the east and southeast.
Andrzej Wiercinski claims that some of the Olmecs were of African origin. He supports this claim with cranial evidence from two Mesoamerican sites: Tlatilco and Cerro de las Mesas. Tlatilco is a site in the Valley of Mexico. Although outside the Olmec heartland, Olmec influences appear in the architectural record.
The Olmec were the first major civilization in Mexico. Appearing around 1600 BCE, the Olmec were among the first Mesoamerican complex societies, and their culture influenced many later civilizations, like the Maya. The Olmec are known for the immense stone heads they carved from a volcanic rock called basalt.
Among their many accomplishments, Olmecs created the first cities in North America. Many archeological sites are known for this culture, but only two were large and splendid enough to qualify as cities: San Lorenzo and La Venta.
Seventeen Olmec colossal heads have been found: 10 at San Lorenzo, four at La Venta, two at Tres Zapotes and one at La Cobata.
The most agreed upon theory is that, because of their unique physical features and the difficulty and cost involved in their creation, they represent Olmec rulers. Seventeen heads have been discovered to date, 10 of which are from San Lorenzo and 4 from La Venta; two of the most important Olmec centres.
The Olmecs lived in hot, humid lowlands along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico in what is now southern Veracruz and Tabasco states in southern Mexico. The first evidence of their remarkable art style appears about 1200 bce in San Lorenzo, their oldest known building site.
In short, the Maya came first, and settled in modern-day Mexico. Next came the Olmecs, who also settled Mexico. They didn’t build any major cities, but they were widespread and prosperous. They were followed by the Inca in modern-day Peru, and finally the Aztecs, also in modern-day Mexico.
The Olmecs studied astronomy and developed a system of writing and mathematics. They were the first Mesoamerican culture to build pyramids. Their calendar and religious beliefs appear to have influenced later cultures. In fact, many scholars call the Olmecs the “mother culture” of Mesoamerica.
Some historians assert that the Mayans were the descendants of the Olmecs.
The End of the Olmec Civilization Around 400 B.C. La Venta went into decline and was eventually abandoned altogether. With the fall of La Venta came the end of classic Olmec culture. Although the descendants of the Olmecs still lived in the region, the culture itself vanished.
The Sumerian civilization is the oldest civilization known to mankind. The term Sumer is today used to designate southern Mesopotamia. In 3000 BC, a flourishing urban civilization existed. The Sumerian civilization was predominantly agricultural and had community life.